Digging For Grubs

imageI had my weirdest experience ever on a golf course yesterday: My boys and I took a road trip from Ann Arbor to Battle Creek to visit the Binder Park Golf Course—not to play, but to dig for grubs.

Binder Park has for the last several years been the site of a Michigan State University experiment in biological means of controlling Japanese beetles. Led by MSU Entomologist Dave Smitley, the project involves infecting Japanese beetle grubs with a pathogen and then seeding them throughout afflicted areas. The infected grubs spread the disease to the grups in your yard, and in a few years—no more Japanese Beetles.

Japanese Beetles have become a terrible problem throughout Michigan—and throughout the nation. The metallic green adult beetles chew their way through the leaves of berry bushes, grapes, linden, sycamore, Japanese maples, crabapples, and other fruit trees. The beasties completely defoliated Mrs. GolfBlogger’s roses this year and they hit my grape arbor hard.

Just as bad as the beetles are the grubs. In the beetles’ larvae stage, they munch voraciously on the roots of grass—and thus the problem for golf courses. In areas infected by the grubs, grass just dies in huge patches.

The most immediate solution is chemical. But that’s expensive, and not generally healthy. Thus, the infected grub solution.

Gathering the grubs was just what you’d expect. With our bucket and shovels, we tramped through the rough alongside one of the fairways and picked a likely spot. Using the shovel, I cut through a patch of sod and turned it over. Then the boys and I inspected the dirt just under the grass for the grubs. They are, as you can see from the photo I took, nasty looking little things about the size of a fingernail. After picking out any we found, we replaced the sod, moved a few feet over and dug some more.

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Gathering 40 grubs took a little over an hour.

We also picked up quite a few worms because my five-year-old decided that if the grubs were being moved to a new home, they needed to bring some of their “friends” with them.

I’d never been to Binder Park Golf Course before, but I can tell you that I’m eager to go back and play. It’s quite beautiful, and very well kept.

Once we got them home, we had to replant them in our own yard. With a small shovel, we would wedge open a spot of turf and drop a beetle into the crack.

Now all we have to do is wait. At the course, Smtley said that it would take a couple of years to get good results, but that eventually, the infected grubs would spread to every yard in the neighborhood.

It’s an economical solution. If your own home course is infested with Japanese beetles, you should ask your greenskeeper to look into the infected grubs.

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